Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Interim report on the Joint Philippine-Australian Butuan Boat Project, October 1992

Author/s J.N. Green, T. Vosmer, P. Clark and R. Snatiago

Year of publication 1992

Report Number: 64

The 1992 Butuan boat recording project is the second joint Philippine–Australian maritime archaeological project (for the first, in 1988, see Clark et al., 1989). The present project is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant held by two of the authors (Clark and Green). The subject of the ARC project is the study of the development of ships and shipbuilding technology in the pre-modern period. The research utilizes maritime, historical, reconstruction, experimental and ethno-archaeological techniques, together with archival research and computer-based methods, to study aspects of ships within the Indian Ocean, Southeast Asian and East Asian regions and the associated aspects of European shipbuilding technology.

This research has implications for our understanding of the history of Asian technology, and the processes of maritime trade which were central to cultural diffusion and adaptation throughout the Asian littoral, the Indian Ocean and Oceania. The expansion and technology of maritime trade is also closely related to the economic history of Asian societies and a better knowledge of maritime technological evolution in the area is one of the keys to a better understanding of the mechanics of Asian economic and cultural history.

The Butuan Boats represent an important part of the understanding of Southeast Asian shipbuilding technology. The lashed lugs have parallels in other parts of Southeast Asia, particularly in archaeological finds in Malaysia and Sumatra (Evans, 1927; Gibson-Hill, 1952 and Manguin, 1985). The technique is still found in the Moluccan and Solar Archipelago and the Solomon Islands (Burningham, personal communication and Horridge, 1982) and also has parallels in Europe (Hornell, 1946). Vedstigial lugs are also found in South Sualwesi (Burningham, personal communication), the Maldives (Millar, 1993) and other areas. Previous work on the Butuan 2 boat (Clark, et al., 1992) has resulted in a better understanding of the construction proces of this type of boat. Since there are two other extant Butuan boats, not investigated in 1988, located in museums in Butuan and Libertad on the island of Mindinao, it was considered important to record these two vessels in detail in order to complete the investigations. In consultation with Wilfredo Ronquillo and the National Museum, a visit Butuan to record the Butuan 1 and 5 boats was made in September 1992. Prior to visiting Butuan, Clark, Santiago and Vosmer spent a short period in Tawi Tawi, southern Sulu, recording local boat construction (Fig. 2). After completing the field work in Butuan, a Bajau (Bajao or Badjao) lepa or ‘houseboat’ in the anthropology and ethnography collection of the National Museum in Manila was also recorded. This paper summarizes the initial findings of this work; it is anticipated that a more detailed report will be published later.